Love watches? This MB&F LM Perpetual might offer more watch than any other | Top Gear
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Love watches? This MB&F LM Perpetual might offer more watch than any other

Perpetual calendar, 581 separate pieces and more faces than Koh from The Last Airbender... it can only be from the minds of some serious watch lovers

Published: 29 Mar 2023

Let’s say you really love watches. More than the average bear. More than the average bore crowing about his new Hulk Sub. More than your average bona fide horologist, even. So much so, in fact, that you need more watch than... well, a single watch can provide. So what can you do?

Well, there’s always the option of wearing a couple of watches, like Buzz Aldrin, Bill Murray, LeBron James and... er, Fidel Castro. So maybe not that.

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The answer, as you’ve no doubt been expecting us to get to eventually, is to pack more watch into the one watch you’re wearing. And if there’s one watch that flirts with the limit of just how much horology can be stuffed inside the case of a regular-production watch, it’s this.

The MB&F Perpetual, its four sub-dials, two mainsprings, 581 parts and entirely reinvented perpetual calendar complication all sit inside a 44mm stainless steel case. But what’s not there is possibly even more important: anything like what’s come before.

Sounds bombastic, of course, but then considering MB&F and independent watchmaker Stephen McDonnell have created a self-contained perpetual calendar movement that a) looks like this does, and b) completely rethinks the way perpetual calendars work, we can probably get away with it.

By now, you might be wondering what the big problem with regular perpetual calendar watches is, to warrant a blank-sheet remake. You might even be wondering what a perpetual calendar is. From the top, then.

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A perpetual calendar is a feature of mechanical watches (generally called a complication in watch circles) that, at its most basic, tells the date. Simple enough. But perpetual calendars are an entirely different league than the regular date function that needs to be adjusted for shorter months and leap years. Set correctly and kept running, the perpetual calendar will report the date, leap years and all, with complete accuracy – and without any interference – for as long as you’ll live.

As you’d expect, this is a murderously complicated thing to achieve with gears, levers and springs. Which is why, for many watch brands, a perpetual calendar watch is the absolute apotheosis of their range – and every bit as expensive as you’d imagine.

But it might also be about as close to a white elephant as a watch gets – it’s all too easy to damage the mechanism, and even if every Mogwai-spec rule is followed, they can still skip dates. Not great when you have to then adjust and reset, using the pusher to cycle through 47 calendar months to make sure your long months and leap years are calculated correctly.

To fix the near-fatal flaws, MB&F’s reimagined perpetual calendar movement ditches the ‘grand levier’ (because big lever just sounds entirely too common for haute horlogerie) for what it calls a ‘mechanical processor’. One day, when our freshly fricasseed brains have recovered somewhat, we’ll get someone from MB&F to walk us through it properly, but the upshot of the whole design is rather simpler: no big lever. No skipping dates. No breakages or carefully orchestrated ritual to set (or reset) the date. There’s even a pusher to cycle through years in one click, instead of 12.

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Oh, and that astonishing flying bridge holding the balance wheel, the sub dials without a dial and the experience of viewing time through the machine that measures it? Without the mechanical processor (and some serious genius on the part of one Maximilian Busser and his Friends), it’d be impossible.

Of course, reinventing the wheel and coming up with something that’s arguably better is not the kind of thing that comes particularly cheaply. And at about £145,000 (164,000 Swiss Francs in MB&F’s local currency), we’ll admit that it’s not something you’ll spot on every wrist. That’s actually due to more than cost; even though it’s not a limited edition, the sheer complexity of the watch and the time it takes to build it puts a definite limit on production numbers. But remember that part where we said ‘viewing the time through the machine that measures it’? Well, let’s say you really love watches...

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